Life doesn't pause when you're going through menopause. I still want to be dynamic in my meetings but I also want to go unnoticed. The pressure to succeed weighs heavily on my shoulders!
In the last few months, I have begun to be vocal about menopause and how debilitating it can be at work. So, I was delighted to be asked to put pen to paper – or fingers to keys – and spill the beans on one of life's mysteries. But here I am at 10 p.m. the night before submitting my copy, with no more than fresh air and cotton wool in my head, and thoughts of my next sweet fix obscuring any relevant blog-worthy comment.
Colleagues who noticed any of the above – 0!
I'm currently going through perimenopause which, for me, has all the glamorous joys of full-blown menopause: hot sweats, bloating, fatigue, and mood swings to name a few.
It's sometimes impossible to navigate these symptoms while working full-time. But I still have to meet my targets and deadlines at work, and maintain (or feign!) an air of professionalism as much as I can.
If I were pregnant, this state of affairs would be accepted and understood by everyone. "Go and lie down, take a day to look after yourself!" they would say. But as a 50-year-old woman with very similar symptoms, I feel pressure to keep quiet about this time of my life, and these changes to my body over which I have no control.
That silence is overwhelming in the workplace, especially when you are in a male-dominated field. I fear that I'll lose value in the eyes of my male or younger female colleagues. I worry I may be asked for my opinion less, or get overlooked for promotion or a pay rise.
Sometimes, I have accepted being spoken down to by men and regarded suspiciously by fresh-faced women in the flush of youth. Why? Because I believed they could see my discomfort and would call me out on my obvious onset of middle-aged madness. I worried they would doubt my ability to do my job.
Having fought my whole life to be relevant in my space and to have my voice heard, it's devastating to experience a huge loss of confidence. I often lose my train of thought mid-sentence in a meeting. I'll suffer excruciating anxiety before a presentation, or suddenly become paralyzed with self-doubt. People have surely noticed how thin my hair has suddenly become, and that makes me long to be invisible. At times, it is totally debilitating.
In many ways, lockdown has been a blessing in disguise because I can deal with my symptoms more easily, particularly my hot flashes. These happen suddenly, and without warning. As soon as I begin to overheat the flash comes over me like a wave and I visibly perspire. But then, just as quickly, my body temperature will reverse and I feel like I'm in the Antarctic.
Whenever I had an in-person meeting pre-lockdown, I had to plan my clothes for the day. I'd even check the weight of my bag to make sure nothing would contribute to the overheating. But I didn't have a warmer backup outfit so would have to suffer the utter pain of cold later.
But this year I turned 50 and made the decision to no longer be silent about my menopause. I'm willing to risk the misogynistic jibes (though admittedly I hide my embarrassment behind jokes). But I have decided to own this. To saddle the elephant in the room and stampede through the silence!
So what needs to change? The embarrassment. The silence. The lack of understanding. Women need to feel safe to share their experience and ask for help if they need it. Only by speaking up about our struggle can we begin to break the taboo. So what am I doing? I am shouting it from the rooftops!
I am also launching a podcast with one of my best (also menopausal) friends, even though we don't know anything about making podcasts! We're giving it a go because it's important to inform and support others – women and men. I don't want my son to think of me as a shrivelling light, but to understand what I'm dealing with. That way he can be an ally to his colleagues when they experience it. And when his wife is going through menopause, I hope the stigma is no longer there.
I also want menopause to be covered in health education at schools, and for doctors to provide more information and support to help us all through it.
And so in the spirit of transparency and starting the conversation... I am Katie, a mother, step-mother, wife, and full-time sales manager.
Sometimes I have to switch my camera off mid-meeting, feigning technical difficulties, because I start to cry for no reason, or can't stop yawning due to a lack of sleep. I'd avoid group presentations if I could for fear of brain fog descending, making me trip over my words. I'm currently on antidepressants to boost the serotonin levels in my body. I also take six vitamins every day to try and regulate the internal chaos!
I have to get up early because it now takes me at least 30 minutes for my creased face to rearrange itself into something that resembles normal. That's before I tackle the hour-long performance of getting ready for work and trying to appear like a fully functioning adult. Makeup is my new best friend (except when it slides off during a hot flash). While sweat drips off my forehead, I have to regularly fill up my hot water bottle slippers for my freezing cold feet. And I am always one snack away from waddling.
Despite all this, I still turn up, I still perform and I still deliver at work. But there are many days when just getting out of bed is winning.
Have you struggled with menopausal symptoms at work? What can our colleagues do to help us through this stage in life? Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments, below.
Hear more about both Katie and Emerald Publishing's Erika Valenti's experience of menopause in The Good Practice Podcast.
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Love this honest, funny, sad, brave and real piece about the tribulations I hear from women every day in my hormonal health work. Thanks for helping to keep the conversations going. Ashleigh
Ashleigh, do you have any general advice or suggestions to help people as they ride the waves of menopause? It's nice to know that we are not alone and there are things we can do to help.
Thank you! Finally feel like I have a mena-posse that understands. 😊
I believe that the more we bring this subject to light and talk about what we are going through (or have gone through as in my case!), we can feel supported and connected rather than alone. Let's keep the conversation going. - Midgie, Mind Tools Moderator
Thank you! You've expressed every single thought in my head. It should be out in the open and accepted as a legitimate medical issue with the appropriate accommodations. It's almost a disability...can be debilitating, Yet It's still only discussed in hushed tones. Or mocked...not accepted or understood. I found some relief with fish oil and the Hot Flash supplements from Whole Foods. But it's a struggle every day. And it's been six years.
Thanks Kim for sharing your experiences. The more we shine a light on this topic and talk about it, the more it will (hopefully!) become accepted.
This is the most honest article I have read and really feels like you have said everything that is in my mind, Thank you!
I am lucky, I have boss that understands as much as he can and listens to how I feel, and also three of my colleagues too...Great to know we are not alone.
Thank you sooooo much for understanding and expressing our distress and difficulties so well. Take care!!!!
Hi, really nice to read your lines and determination to pull the topic to the surface!
You write that you have started the conversation around this topic - how are you approaching this?
And what have reactions been so far - both in silence/joking it off and support that you experience?
I can totally relate to all your feelings and difficulties. I have been going through peri/menopause for about 7 years now, I have no idea when one stopped and the other started as I haven't had a period in over 13 years, as I had a hysterectomy at around age 45.
I am a yoga and meditation teacher and I have made it my life's work to help women during these times of struggle to shift to a new and better way of living. I am not sure if I can mention here, but I have a special group for all the special, strong and brave women who are going through this. where I share lot's of great information to help ladies cope, cool the body with breathing and alleviate stress, joint pain and a whole lot more. Gentle yoga, meditation and the best is deep relaxation practices, which have saved me from feeling exhausted and unable to stay awake beyond 6pm. I want to help as many women as I possibly can.
Absolutely! Thank you for helping to raise this. So many of us are going through this. It should be easy/automatic to request/receive the small adjustments required to make working through menopause easier and surely that's better for employers too.
Thanks for speaking out about the trials and tribulations of menopause. The emotional rollercoaster can be debilitating and annoying.
Hi Katie, this is wonderful.. the more voices the better. I practise as The MidLife Coach and so perimenopause comes up a lot with my clients, and is something I write about. I'm just curious to see if you've seen a menopause specialist about your symptoms? I'm a big believer that we don't have to go through these symptoms if we can avoid it and oestrogen has been my life saver. I'm attaching a link to my blog post on midlife health and why it's so important to address it for our long term health too - https://www.themidlifecoach.org/blog/why-women-have-to-win-at-health-in-midlife
You've been so brave and well done.. I know that wasn't easy!
As a Man, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing, for educating and for helping me become a better ally 🙏
Hello, thanks for sharing this, I hope you don't mind if we share this on our intranet at work. We're doing a great deal in educating managers and women in the menopause so this will be helpful reading. If you are looking for further support Miss Menopause has an excellent Facebook group where there is lots of support.
OMG, Yes! This is me. Surrounded by men and child bearing beauty that has very little desire or willingness to even try to understand. Thank you for giving me hope in the knowledge I am not alone. I am crying as I type and secretly eat this cookie!
This is brilliant! There is a menopause group which was recently set up at work, so I will forward this on. I was forced into the menopause at 38 because of breast cancer, and was shocked at how little is said about it. Thank you for shouting about it for the rest of us, and giving us the confidence to do the same.
I enjoyed this article simply because I can identify with the experience. My situation is even more complicated because at work I’m now a triple minority and at home my symptoms are seen as an attempt to be a rebellious wife. My mental health is at an all time low and now that my son is leaving for University I’m am worried about myself. This is a lonely place. However articles like these let me know that I’m no alone.
Thank you Katie, you have hit the nail on the head. I have a younger colleague at work who is always cold and constantly has a heater blasting away, however when I put on the air con on, it's like the sky has fallen in. Not enough is done to support women going through menopause, I applaud you and would like to help spread the word. I am going to have a chat with our HR department (all women :))
This article was spot on funny and enlightening but true to the core. I get the part about feeling like you are in a furnace and the next minute your teeth are chattering from from cold. This definitely needs to be a topic that gets talked about much more without the shame attached to it. Thank you for this.
I too have recently stopped being quiet about menopause. I tell everyone and anyone that will listen. Doctors here in the States are generally not really knowledgeable about menopause.
Can you provide your podcast please
My newly acquired muffin top and I understand exactly what you are saying! I keep thinking I should go back to the Dr, outside of my annual checkup, just to talk about this. There's never enough time to cover all the menopause questions while covering the basic health needs assessment.
Katie - every word you have written has resonated with me. I didn't know I was going through the peri-menopause when I was and stood down from a senior leadership role in my organisation as I didn't think I was up to it anymore. It wasn't my employer's fault as I didn't even know what was going on! I don't ever want another women to feel that so we really need to ensure that the next generation of women and employers are informed, open and supportive - which I'm pleased to say mine now is.
Thanks for opening the discussion. I am fed up with seeing everything related to women being a taboo or a burden. When will women be seen as something else than bodies that need to be controlled? Our periods stop, so what? We become free from maternity constraints but not from desire. We have hot flashes - why should this be a shame? Men start to have erection problems and drug industry have found a treatment, why not for hot flashes? Women get "old" and need to hide it (with cosmetics, hair coloring, surgery etc) when men "ripen" - really? They also have transformations (lose they hair, get a fat belly, etc) which may even be worst but they don't need to do any effort, is that fair? I don't want to oppose men and women, but we can ask for the same perception = age should not be a problem. We should be accepted as we are = strong, beautiful, capable.
This article is exactly what I needed, especially today. Suffering in silence, struggling to keep up at work, sabotaging my weight loss goals. This is me at 50, not every day. Some days I'm remarkably productive. Would love to hear from other women experiencing perimenopause & menopause. Can't wait for your podcast!
I has to fight for HRT and still fight to stay on it! Please provide information about HRT for those suffering from all the symptoms listed plus shrinking gums, crashing headaches, dry eyes, losing hair enough to block outside drains, loss if libido, vaginal atrophy and so much more. The scary research has been proven wrong and HRT protects against all kinds of horrors - dementia, osteoporosis, cardiac issues and so much more. Woman don’t have to struggle like this (although the choice is theirs) - please provide factual help
I shudder at the memories of dealing with perimenopause, which in my view is worse than menopause. I lost so much jewellery during this period. Yes, I went to my doctor (male) feeling that I must be seriously ill and he put me on Anti-depressants! I took two and threw the rest away. A lot of education is needed in all sectors, even in the medical sector. I remember presenting at a meeting only to know that a hot flash was beginning and never felt so helpless. During my presentation my boss got up and got me a electric fan and another colleague went and got me a glass of water. Me? I pressed on with the presentation. What could I do, except to go and hide in my office after I finished presenting and never spoke about it. I started to research menopause and learnt so much. At one point was taking everything from Evening Primrose, Black Coash, and anything else that was suppose to help. In the end I began to take Viabiotics menopace for menopause but the ones with the two sets of tablets green and light brown. The light brown contained the soya extract which really helped with the hot flashes, brain fog, memory loss, mood swings and anxiety. Oh the horror of it all...….
So refreshing to hear about this openly discussed. Brain fog and losing my train of thought happen so often. Plus the cold feet. And the obvious symptoms.
Great to hear some shared pain of life at 50!
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I echo Kelley sentiments we are now part of a mena-posse.
Congratulations, well done for being brave enough to be clear about your experience. I was similarly floored by perimenopausal symptoms in my mid 40s. Can I suggest menopause doctor Louise Newson on Instagram or Google her to find her website. She has lots of very helpful, free info to inform yourself or take for evidence to your GP. Sadly GPs have little to no training relating to the menopause and are frequently giving out incorrect advice, prescribing unnecessary anti- depressants or refusing women who would like it HRT. I have personally found HRT invaluable, the oestrogen boost improved my sleep patterns, stopped hot flushes and removed anxiety within a week of starting. I recommend anyone experiencing hard to manage menopausal/peri menopausal symptoms to take a good look, understand the long list of benefits and very short list of risks and consider HRT. I believe talking more openly does everyone a favour. Other women understand what they are experiencing and men are better able to support wives, partners, sisters, mothers and colleagues. Thanks for covering this topic.
FINALLY! I feel as though I'm all alone in this experience during this time of my life. My husband knowing this, shared this with me knowing my experiences and feeling unable to "share" with others. Support is crucial! It's impowering to know other women are actually talking about it! "Menoposse" is perfect! -
I love hearing people talk about menopause. 55 and still in the thick of it - brain fog! I thought I was going mad until I did some reading and found out it is a symptom. I still get funny looks from my colleagues when I forget a word (usually with a hot flash underway), but at least I know I'm normal.
Thank you, the more I read about these experiences the more I feel "normal" and not going crazy. The biggest challenge is asking for help and that's my next step.
Wow! thank you for this brave, illuminating statement! Really appropriate at a time when we a trying to be more inclusive in the workplace, and attempting to start to more effectively redress wrongs against women generally. Given attitudes in the workplace can be amplified in the home, all the more important. Great call on education starting at school. We do lots of diversity training at work, but this topic impacting all of us (menstruating people specifically, non-menstruating people indirectly) is yet to make an appearance. Why?
A supplement called DIM was very helpful for me when in peri-menopause & now and then still as needed a few years later.
Women’s bodies are so much more complex then men’s yet the default medical & scientific study is a man’s system. Not right. It’s like comparing apples and avocados! That is why as women we must take an active role in our health and firsthand testimonials are so helpful but what makes everything more tricky is the knowledge that everyone’s systems react a bit different. I’ve found really staying in tune with what’s going on in my body and keeping a food/symptom journal to track is helpful. Some foods are triggers. You can determine what yours may be. Nutrition is key.
Thank you so much for sharing, I've been going through the same. I'm visiting my doctor this week to ask for some assistance.
How do we reach the men? How many of us have a superior that is male and who has no understanding, sympathy (empathy is out of the realm of possibilities) or tolerance for the amazing, skilled, productive-under-duress menopausal female? How do we reach and include them?
Thank you for sharing your experiences and you are right, if we were pregnant people understand and treat you differently. I've tried many herbal 'remedies' more like bandaids, but Valerian Tea, the freshly dried version from Chem Warehouse, worked well for sleeping and relaxing. Very difficult to deal with hot flashes, especially in meetings or training people - or driving! A bit dangerous. The anxiety and panic at the same time can be hard to deal with also. I get panic attacks instead of crying. When I spoke to my Mum about it, she said she had the symptoms for 42 years. Great. Not. So the sooner we understand more and show more empathy to others experiencing this, the better we will all be. Good luck everyone
Thank you thank you thank you!!!! I struggle every day with all of the lack of confidence, brain fog, no energy but the most debilitating part for myself is the pain from increased inflammation that appears to be running rampant throughout my body. In my knees, hips, shoulders any muscle or joint it takes a liking to. This makes it incredibly hard to focus on any given task when all you want to do is burst into tears but you know that you are a leader that your team and people look to for support and guidance. so there is no time for you to be falling to pieces. Linda
Hi Midgie, we have a wonderful organisation who educates and supports both clients and professionals : https://www.jeanhailes.org.au/health-a-z/menopause.
I have been looking for someone to decipher this maze. Thank you so much!!
Thank you for sharing your experience so openly. I found Louise Newson - The Menopause Doctor very good. She is on a crusade to better inform our medical practitioners, so they can provide us menopausal ladies with better support. She’s also a massive advocate of HRT. Go and give her a look! Good luck!
Thanks a lot for sharing this. It is an eye opener for every man and I am writing these lines because, in my opinion, not only female comments should appear here ... My best wishes to all concerned! 🙂
Dear Katie, Thank you Thank you Thank you, for the good laugh (and cry). I related to everything you shared. I honestly felt alone (just me, my fan and my blanket) and had no idea how to express how I am feeling and what I’m going through without people looking it at me like I’m crazy. Please share details about your podcasts, I would love to connect and learn more.
I totally agree with all the comments. Thanks for the article too. Many of my friends take HRT and have found it helps enormously but I had a very small cancerous lump in my breast so am not allowed to access this solution. My GP had no alternatives to offer me. I just thought all my symptoms were due to stress in my life.
A friend sent this article to me, because of the miserable space I'm living in now. I've been a strong, confident person much of my life. I'm a veteran and have been in management positions much of my working career. I've been suffering a crisis of confidence the last year, as what feels like a betrayal by my body rules my days: insomnia, anxiety (about everything from driving to health), vertigo, painful joints, hot flashes, night sweats, inability to focus. I still work through it, struggle to get with the program, and recognize what I'm up against. But it is frustrating and there are days when I wonder if I will ever leave my house again. Other friends tell me that once the estrogen instability settles, life gets much better. Hard to imagine when you're in it!
Thank you very much for your funny, informative, and brave writing. As you mentioned it is part of our life as a mid-age woman and we should more talk about it and the taboo must be cleared.
I'm an event manager and openly talk about being menopausal. I tell my event team that I get flustered easily and sometimes make rushed and dumb decisions because of it. I ask them to be supportive and to gently question something if they think I've made flustered decision. They don't get to undermine or override me and it gives them a better understanding of what my brain is doing.
I also take HRT which relieves brain fog and gives me energy. I take Berocca (vit B) to help with stress levels. I take magnesium to help my muscles relax (tight jaw, aching feet and calves). I have stopped eating wheat (oh bread, I miss you) to stop the arthritic ache in my hands, shoulders and hips (it is mildly inflammatory, especially in menopause) and it also causes a bit of brain fog. And I do yoga weekly to keep stability and mobility in my body.
Good luck everyone, thanks for sharing your journey.
I love your approach of being open about it. It's certainly a great way to educate others and to help them understand what you're dealing with from moment to moment.
Yolande, Mind Tools Team
Katie, I have to start off saying "THANK GOD" I read your story and the fact of you writing it is so inspiring. I will be 48 in a couple mths and I have been experiencing some of the things that you have shared, night sweats, emotions, forgetting, and I have gained weight as well, Ugg. Anyhow, I recently went to my Dr and they did blood work and sure enough, MENOPAUSE has arrived. If it is not one thing it is another, being a women is Amazing however, it is trying and tuff, especially when you don't have anyone to talk to about it or to share experiences. It's hard to admit when you are struggling. When there are problems that are not always visible to others, they don't understand. Even when it is visible, some still don't. Thank you for this and to all those who shared. Appreciate it very much.
As a recently turned 44 year old I am not yet on the menopause journey but I lived with my Mum when she went through the menopause and remember helping her strip and re make the bed in the middle of the night as it was sodden from sweats and then watching her metorthorically glide through the day like the swan gliding on the lake but legs paddling like crazy under water. She has inspired me all my life and still amazes me working when many contemporaries have long since retired. At my firm we have just rolled out a policy on menopause and it was supported and approved by the chaps as well as the ladies I am proud to say. Having had 3 children at 38, 40 and 43 and an owner of a business since the age of 29 my baby brain moments have challenged me. Katie your comments and your talent in all you do is an inspiration and you are a superb role model!
Thanks Katie for opening up about menopause with no detours
This is still unheard of where I am ( East Africa, Burundi ) but it is something that is very important to be aware of in our working communities
Thank you again
Thank you Katie! Definitely something important to tease through ... hard to separate what’s stress from pandemic and menopause related. Keep sharing!!
Beautifully put Katie. We should all appreciate and support colleagues, friends and family when they need it and a better understanding is the first key step to that. Bravo for sharing
Well done Katie for sharing your story so far. Such a refreshingly honest read which I am sure will help many people open up about their own experiences. Can’t wait for the podcast!
That was interesting and thank you for sharing your experience.
Your challenges are a match for mine! I didn't realise there are women out there just like me. Thanks for being brave enough to share. You honesty is refereshing and I'm glad like me you have a great sense of humour 🙂
My symptoms have increased over a period of one month. I feel like jakkle and hyde in a split second. Im not coping well. Trying to get through a day at work is unbearable. I feel cold and shivery in winter and within minutes, i want to strio and be in summer wear. And tbh, want to even remove my scarf. That's ok, i am working with all woman. So if need be, i do so. Im not one for ice cold water as it gives me brain freeze lol. But it has been my go to drink during this time.
I dint get any red blotches on my skin as some woman. I do feel this warm sensation pushing up from the waist.
I want to scream and pull my last hair, not forgetting i want to climb the walls. Wearing a mask has become a bit unbearable #unwearable too .... 😔😩😢😭
Hi Katie. After reading all the posts it seems that we are suffering. My mum started hers at 40 and I can remember standing over the freezer compartments at Tesco whilst she had a hot flush. I am very vocal at work about the menopause but work with mostly women, so it’s not seen a as taboo. All I can say it my mom was on HRT for over 30 years and it transformed and saved her sanity.
Bravo for sharing this Katie, full of honesty and humour. I love the your day in the life summary, I think I'll do one of these and share with the husband and colleagues. Friends have echoed the positive comments above about Louise Newson – The Menopause Doctor. I just find it extremely difficult to focus on my own self-care to find an appropriate solution as I'm not allowed HRT. I'm really looking forward to your podcast, if only I could remember to tune in!
With so much going on, it's a challenge for me to remember to tune in to podcasts, also! Two things that help me include setting a reminder in my calendar app and adjusting my notifications in my podcast player app. I hope this will help you, too!
Lovely article expecting next article thank you so much. Amazing information.
It's great this is being talked about so much now and that greater respect is being shown to older women at work - it's the right thing to do, but it's also wise for businesses as we need their knowledge and experience!
Today I heard a real-life account of the opposite kind of behavior, reminiscent of the cruellest school-yard trick but perpetrated by a grown woman against her menopausal colleague - she deliberately turned up the heating when her co-worker was around, and laughed at the resulting distress. On top of other bullying and harrassment, this eventually led the older woman to leave her job.
Never was an ally, male or female, more needed!
Wow, Charlie!?!? Are you kidding? That's awful... and some next-level hate. I have NEVER heard of a case of this type of cruelty beyond television (but unrelated to menopause). I truly believe in karma; and that "lady," the perpetrator, will receive hers and then some. She'll remember what she did and feel bad inside, emotionally and thermally.
You are right, it is exact